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Ex-Olympians Herbert, Hrovat to serve as co-directors of Michigan USA Wrestling

December 1st, 2013 by Tom

Jake Herbert and Andy Hrovat, former Big Ten matmen and past U.S. Olympic freestyle team members, have been named co-executive directors of Michigan USA Wrestling, the national governing body for the sport announced Saturday.

Herbert and Hrovat will be directly involved in youth wrestling in the state of Michigan, according to the USA Wrestling announcement.

Wrestler Jake HerbertHerbert, 28, a high school state champ in his native Pennsylvania, is arguably one of the most successful wrestlers in the history of Northwestern University wrestling. Herbert compiled a 149-4 wrestler primarily at 184 pounds, winning three Big Ten conference crowns (2006, 2007, 2009) and two NCAA Division I titles in 2007 and 2009. The product of Pittsburgh was presented with the Hodge Trophy in 2009 as the best college wrestler that year. He competed in freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, placing seventh at 84 kilos/185 pounds.

In addition, Herbert has been an active member of the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW), a go-to guy for media-savvy quotes about the sport. And if that weren't enough, Herbert plays early 1980s Oklahoma State wrestler Mike Sheets in the upcoming Hollywood movie "Foxcatcher" about Olympic gold medal-winning brothers Mark and Dave Schultz.

Wrestler Andy HrovatHrovat, 33, was a two-time Ohio high school state champ before heading north to the University of Michigan. As a Wolverine, the Gates Mills, Ohio native compiled a 139-39 record, earning NCAA All-American honors three times (1999, 2001, 2002) and was a runner-up at 184 at the 2002 Big Ten championships. Hrovat represented the U.S. in freestyle at 84 kilos/185 pounds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 2005, he competed in Real Pro Wrestling, a paid form of amateur wrestling, and predecessor to more recent ventures such as Agon Wrestling, Tour ACW (Association of Career Wrestlers), and Victory Wrestling Challenge.

In addition to bringing valuable collegiate and freestyle expertise to their new position, Herbert and Hrovat also offer hands-on experience in conducting clinics for coaches and young wrestlers, and have developed an approach to working with youth.

“Our goal is to increase membership for USA Wrestling in the state, and to make wrestling better at all levels," said Herbert. "After being in the state for the last three years, I am excited to have a fulltime position where I can make an impact here. I enjoy working with coaches and kids across the state.”

“The potential we see is that we are going after the masses within wrestling," according to Hrovat. "We know what it takes to be a World class wrestler. We are confident that we can put young wrestlers on the right path where they can get where they want to be in the sport. We will be dealing with youth wrestlers. We want to make sure they are still treated as kids. We don’t want to make decisions based on the top 1% of wrestlers here. We want the 99%. We want to provide a product and a service which they see value in. We want them to come back for more.”

“It is an awesome resource to have two Olympians here to help in our state,” said Dan Coon, state chairman for Michigan USA Wrestling. “They are doing an outstanding job for us. They are getting to know more people from all across the state. They have gone out there and made many contacts on the high school and youth levels.”

Kim Spiegel – One of Northern Michigan Universities most accomplished athletes

August 24th, 2011 by Tom

By Harold Raker

PORT TREVORTON " Kim Spiegel will soon begin her freshman year at Northern Michigan University as one of the school's most accomplished athletes. Yet, the 18-year-old will not compete in any sport for the Wildcats.

Spiegel, who completed her senior year of high school in Marquette, Mich., wrestling in the U.S. Olympic Education Center while living at Northern Michigan, also located in Marquette. Since leaving Selinsgrove after her junior year at Selinsgrove High School, the daughter of Paul and Judy Spiegel, Port Trevorton, and already accomplished wrestler, won her second national championship in the Asics Junior Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, N.D., and finished second in the Junior Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last month.

In an interview after receiving her gold medal in Fargo, Spiegel was asked how it felt to become the first female from wrestling-rich Pennsylvania to win a pair of national junior titles.

"It's amazing, I kind of can't believe it, "Spiegel told the interviewer. "I have everybody around me to thank."

Her trip to Brazil came about after she finished second to her USOEC teammate, Anneliese DeAragon, in the Junior World Team Trials last May in Florida. She also earned first-team All-America status on the Asics High School team and her U.S. team took first place in all three styles (Greco-Roman, Freestyle and Women's Freestyle) in Brazil.

Not a bad year, considering that she was injured on her first day of practice a year ago and required surgery last October.

She only returned to full practices last March.

"I had a tough time getting back on the mat, but it made me stronger in the end. It really drove me, "she said.

"I'm very excited to go back (to Michigan), "she said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

Spiegel will continue to train at the USOEC while attending college, where she will major in entrepreneurship, and hopes all her hard work will land her a berth on the U.S. Olympic team. The sport will be a part of the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Spiegel recently visited her family in Snyder County, but will leave for college next week.

While at Selinsgrove, she was a member of the high school wrestling team for three years. She was invited to train at the USOEC after coaches saw here compete in the Body Bar Nationals in Kissimmee, Fla., where she won the cadet division (high school class) at 70 kilos (154.25 pounds. That earned Spiegel her first trip to the Junior Nationals in Managua, Nicaragua, where she won the title. Her latest national title and silver medal finish in the international event came at 172 pounds.

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Dennis Hall to Coach USOEC Program at Northern Michigan

August 31st, 2009 by Tom

Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Dennis Hall of Stevens Points, Wis. has been named the head coach for USA Wrestling's Greco-Roman program at the U.S. Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University.

Hall was one of the greatest Greco-Roman wrestlers in U.S. history, with three career Olympic and World medals. He was a 1995 World champion, only the second American at that time to win a Greco-Roman World title. Hall captured a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga., and won a World bronze medal in 1994.

"Dennis Hall brought to the mat a fierce competitive spirit, "said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender. "We are confident he will bring that same spirit to our program at Northern Michigan University, as we strive to continue as one of the most powerful Greco-Roman programs in the world."

Hall competed on three U.S. Olympic teams in Greco-Roman. In addition to the silver medal he won in 1996, Hall was eighth in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain and also competed in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

"What Dennis brings to our team is a tremendous passion for Greco-Roman wrestling, "said National Greco-Roman Coach Steve Fraser. "He brings vast experience as a World champion, Olympic silver medalist and World bronze medalist. Some may argue that he is the most decorated Greco-Roman wrestler in our history. He is a great example of what hard work and dedication is all about. I expect him to be a great leader for the young men in the USOEC program at Northern Michigan University."

He qualified for his first U.S. World Team in 1990 at the age of 19 and made a total of 10 U.S. World or Olympic teams. Hall also won the Pan American Games in 1995 and 1999.

Hall was a U.S. Nationals champion for 10 straight years (1992-2001), an amazing streak of consistency. Hall was also second in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and qualified for the U.S. Greco-Roman national team 15 times.

He becomes the third coach in the history of the USOEC Greco-Roman team since its inception, following Gordy Morgan and Ivan Ivanov as head coaches for the program. The USOEC program has produced numerous champion athletes for the United States on both the age-group and Senior levels.

"My goal for this job is to get guys really excited about Greco-Roman wrestling, and to teach them to beat the best wrestlers in the world by working hard, "said Hall. "I believe we can attain that goal. I seek to produce athletes who can win medals at the University and Junior World Championships and guys who can make U.S. Senior-level World Teams."

Hall is originally from Hartford, Wis., where he won three state high school titles and was a three-time Junior Nationals Greco-Roman champion. He attended the Univ. of Wisconsin for one year, then decided to focus full-time on his Greco-Roman career.

Since 2000, Hall has owned World Gold Wrestling, LLC, which provides young athletes with quality coaching through wrestling camps and clubs. Among the young wrestlers he has mentored are Ben Provisor and Jesse Thielke, who were U.S. Junior Greco-Roman World Team members and have won numerous age-group national titles. He has also organized the Dennis Hall Summer Team Duals event each year.

He was also an assistant wrestling coach for the Univ. of Wisconsin-Stevens Point from 2001-2003. During his time there, the team finished third in the Div. III National Championships. For the last two years, he has been the head wrestling coach at Stevens Point High School, where he has produced state placewinners and qualifiers.

Hall and his wife Chrissy have four children: Tyler (13), Brandon (7), Jake (3) and Alyssa (2).

"It is huge to get guys who want to be Greco-Roman wrestlers full-time out of high school, "said Hall. "We will be able to win World medals at a younger age because of this program. Coaching Greco-Roman full-time and coaching at this level is exciting to me. I will have a hand in getting athletes to Northern Michigan University who have the ability to become future World and Olympic champions."

The assistant Greco-Roman coach position at the U.S. Olympic Education Center remains open. An announcement on the individual hired for that position is expected in the near future.

Michigan Names Steve Luke Male Athlete of the Year

June 22nd, 2009 by Tom

 ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan Athletic Department announced today (Thursday, June 18) that senior wrestler Steve Luke (Massillon, Ohio/Perry HS) and women's track and field senior Tiffany Ofili (Ypsilanti, Mich./Ypsilanti HS) have been selected as the 2008-09 Male and Female Athletes of the Year. The pair was also nominated for the Big Ten Conference Suzy Favor Female and Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year awards.

The first Michigan wrestler to earn the school's prestigious Athlete of the Year honor, Luke was perfect in his final collegiate season, posting a flawless 32-0 record en route to the NCAA 174-pound title. The Wolverine captain, who held the nation's No. 1 ranking at 174 pounds for the entirety of the 2008-09 season, became the 20th NCAA champion in program history with an 8-4 decision over Central Michigan's seventh-seeded Mike Miller in the championship finale at the NCAA Tournament. The victory netted Luke his third consecutive All-America citation at 174 pounds; he placed second as a junior (2008) and sixth as a sophomore (2007).

Luke became the seventh Wolverine wrestler to post a perfect season en route to an NCAA title and first to accomplish the feat since two-time champion Jarrett Hubbard (1971-74) did so in 1974. The effort improved Luke's career record to 117-24, placing him 22nd among Michigan's all-time winningest wrestlers.

Named the Wolverines' male recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, Luke captured three straight conference 174-pound titles, becoming the ninth U-M wrestler in program history to achieve the feat. Luke ended his career with a 14-2 career record at the Big Ten Championships, including a 10-0 mark over his last three seasons. His 14 wins are the most for a Michigan wrestler at the conference tournament in the history of the program.

A Biology major off the mat, Luke was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten and three-time NWCA All-Academic selection and five-time recipient of the U-M Athletic Academic Achievement Award. He will begin pharmacy school later this summer.

A repeat selection as Michigan's Female Athlete of the Year, Ofili capped her extraordinary U-M career by winning her third straight 100-meter hurdles title, helping lead the Wolverines to their third consecutive top-10 finish (seventh) at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The national championship was the fifth overall crown for Ofili, who also captured titles in the 60-meter hurdles during the past two seasons indoors. In addition, Ofili also earned four Big Ten titles during her senior season -- indoor 60-meter hurdles and outdoor 100-meter hurdles, long jump and 4x100-meter relay -- giving her nine total conference crowns in her career.

Michigan's first-ever Honda Sports Award nominee for women's track and field, Ofili was named the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Great Lakes Region Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive season. She is also a two-time Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Year honoree (2008-09) and earned All-Big Ten first team honors six times. She was named Michigan's female recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2009.

The school-record holder in the 60-meter dash, 60-meter hurdles and 100-meter hurdles, Ofili will be competing at the USA Track and Field Championships (Thu-Sun., June 25-28) in Eugene, Ore., attempting to claim a spot on the U.S. team for the Track and Field World Championships in Berlin, Germany, held Aug. 15-23.

A three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and four-time recipient of the U-M Athletic Academic Achievement Award, Ofili recently completed her first year in U-M's prestigious School of Pharmacy.